The Biennial Report of the Kansas State Horticultural Society 43: 158-161 (1936)
Thomas F. Doran, Topeka

Roses without cultivation grow wild in all lands north of the equator and in almost every variety of soil and in every surrounding. They are nature's most gracious gift of beauty to mankind. They are found in low valleys and on peaks of the Alps. Their seeds, sown by the wind or carried by birds, spring into living plants and bloom where the earth is broken by running waters, in ravines, in cow paths and by the roadside, amid the ruins of deserted country homesteads and fallen buildings. Histories of the wild rose show that it abounded in Palestine, Syria, India, China, Europe, the British Isles and in the Western Hemisphere. It grows as far north as Alaska and Greenland.

My earliest memory of a wild flower is that of the wild rose springing from the edges of broken paths made by the buffalo through the grass-grown plains of Kansas.

The rose was christened “the queen of flowers” by Sappho, the Greek poet, 500 years before Christ. It still worthily maintains the rank given it by the Greek poet.

Botanists do not agree on the number of species of the rose. Most of them agree that there are more than 100, and one botanist describes over 4,000. The number of species is of minor importance. The list is so great that the rose lover has a vast field from which to select.

It has been said that the garden rose does not thrive in North America as well as it does in Europe. However true this may have been, it does not hold true today. The garden rose of today, if properly cared for, will grow almost anywhere. It is only a question of selection of suitable varieties. These varieties are, for the most part, those which have been propagated from plants adaptable to this particular region

We do not have to worry about the different classifications of the rose family in order to select those most desirable for our gardens. We need only to acquaint ourselves with the well-known types, such as the hybrid perpetuals and hybrid teas; and we may also include the polyanthus, which is a low-growing, full, small-flowered type, very desirable for solid beds and mass effects. We must also include the climbers and the old-fashioned wild rose, such as is found almost everywhere in the fields and prairies of Eastern Kansas. Nearly a thousand wild roses now surround the Reinisch rose garden and the Doran rock garden in Gage park, Topeka. Most of these came from pastures adjacent to Baldwin, Kan.

I am not going to discuss the merits of the various roses as to their place in the landscape scheme or the regular rose garden, for that is a matter which should be left to the individual taste.

The preferable location for a rose garden is in the private part of your premises, or at the side or rear of the home, and well removed from tall buildings or overhanging trees. They should be given unobstructed sunlight, ample space, good soil and plenty of fertilization. If roses are planted too close to trees, especially elms, the tree roots will sap the soil of moisture and fertility and the roses will be dwarfed and finally will die.

When the Reinisch rose garden was first discussed we were discouraged by some who thought roses would not grow in Kansas. Of course, one has only to look about him to readily see the fallacy of this claim, for the wild rose, as stated, abounds in Kansas. If the proper conditions are created, even though they are artificial, nearly all of the worthwhile, present-day varieties can be successfully grown here. Kansas can produce roses rivaling in size and beauty those grown anywhere in the world.

There are only a few simple rules which you must follow to assure success and satisfaction with your rose garden:

First: The selection of plants. Always select good, strong, budded plants, grown on hardy root stock, such as the Japanese Multiflora. Be sure you make your purchases from reliable dealers. The cut-rate stock is of such inferior quality that the purchaser usually is disappointed. You will not get from such plants the quality and quantity of blooms which you have a right to expect.

Second: The soil. The soil in the bed should be good garden soil, and, if one has a hard gumbo or clay, there should be added a substantial portion of sand to cut the clay or gumbo and to provide drainage, and also there should be added a liberal supply of well-rotted cow manure. There is nothing better than this fertilization, although commercial fertilizers may be used successfully if used strictly in accordance with directions. Commercial fertilizers do not assist in breaking the soil or add to the ease of cultivation or the retention of moisture in the soil as fully as does well-rotted cow manure.

It must be remembered that roses do not like wet feet, and therefore it is important that the soil should have some drainage if it is of such character as to hold water. Many soils have their own drainage and need no particular preparation in this respect.

Do not overfeed your roses, as this will tend to stimulate the plant growth and not the bloom. You will have more difficulty with this condition the second year than the first.

Third: Planting. Upon receipt of your plants you will normally find a good root system and canes above the bud from 12 to 18 inches long. The canes should be trimmed back to within approximately 2 to 6 inches above the graft buds, being governed in length by the buds on the canes. Before planting, the root system should also be severely cut back, being sure to make good, clean cuts, and cleaned of all fiberous roots which are usually dead when the plants are received.

Before planting you should also submerge or dip the roots and plant in a solution of mud made of ordinary soil and water, mixed to a thick, usable consistency. This surrounds the roots and plant with the proper moisture to insure immediate growth, and seals out the killing effect of sun and wind.

If your garden is large enough to cultivate with horsepower, or other than handpower, plenty of room should be given between the plants in the rows to allow such cultivation. If only hand cultivation is employed, the roses may be planted from 14 to 18 inches apart, and this gives a very effective mass bed when the plants are in full bloom.

The plants should be placed and packed well in the ground. Do not hesitate to step on them with your full weight. The bigger your foot, the better. When the planting is done, cover the entire plant, cane and all, with well-pulverized earth. This will shut out the killing winds and burning sun, and the plant will work its way through its soil cover to a perfect and quick bloom.

Strong fertilizers should not be packed directly against the plant.

Fourth: Time to plant. Your own choice of catalogue will advise you as to the proper time to plant roses. Some recommend fall planting; others recommend spring planting. We have found spring planting to work excellently where the rose plants are kept dormant, in proper surroundings in cellars at the nursery. Spring planting avoids the possibility of destruction by the heavy frosts of winter, although, as stated, many rosarians recommend fall planting.

As soon as the soil is workable in the spring and the danger of frost has passed, planting can be done. It is usually possible to do this in April, although in the Reinisch rose garden the first year, we did not plant until the first day of May, and the first week in June we had hundreds of blooms. We usually order for delivery about the 15th of March or the first of April, and the stock, being dormant, can be held in proper surroundings, in basements or healed in, until the weather is suitable for planting.

Never buy rose plants with dried-out roots and do not allow the sun and wind to dry the roots after opening the package in which they are received.

Fifth: Cultivation. Too much stress cannot be placed on this subject, because your yield of bloom is very largely dependent upon the cultivation of your ground. Cultivation is the life of the plant, as is true of all growing crops.

Normally, or at least in the ordinary summer season of Kansas, we cannot rely upon rainfall, but must supply moisture. Of course, all know that the moisture we supply to the garden is directly dependent upon the amount of cultivation given the ground.

Cultivation also tends to keep the ground free from detrimental weeds and vegetation and to a certain extent destroy insect pests and helps keep down the diseases and other enemies destructive to the rose.

Sixth: Spraying. This should be done carefully, thoroughly and regularly. Roses are beset with many pests, including insects and various kinds of fungus and bacterial diseases. You will find your most persistent enemies are the common aphis, rose midge,rose-leaf roller, blakspot and mildew.

There are certain specific treatments for these. In our Reinisch rose garden at Topeka at the present time, Tri-ogen is used. This is a three-fold spray which protects the plants from the sucking and leaf-eating insects and prevents blackspot, mildew and other fungus and bacterial infections. This is the most effective spray yet found. We are not advertising this spray, but are merely passing on to you the benefits of the experiments made in the Topeka gardens. This particular spray is rather expensive and is purchased in what is called the estate kit, although this is probably large for the home garden. Smaller quantities may be ordered. I do not remember the price.

This same concern also makes separate sprays. One spray is called Aphistrogen, which is used for leaf-sucking and leaf-eating insects. Another is called Fungstrogen, for fungus growths such as blackspot. They also manufacture Terogen, which is placed in the soil in the fall or early winter. This latter is a powder which can be dusted over the soil and then worked into it, but it is better to scrape a little of the soil away, sprinkle the Terogen over the ground and then cover it with the thin layer of soil which has been removed. This latter process is more satisfactory, because Terogen is not readily soluble in water, and unless it is worked into the soil well, it has a tendency to float away on the water.

Acme All-Round Spray has also been used very successfully in the Reinisch rose garden, but we do not consider it as effective as Tri-ogen.

Bordeaux mixture, arsenate of lead and Black Leaf 40, mixed, also make a good spray, although I am not certain as to the exact proportions which they use in the Reinisch rose garden.

If the suggestions here made are followed diligently no one will have great difficulty in raising perfect roses in Kansas. Roses are part of the luxury of living. No one but a rose lover should attempt to raise them. You must love the rose well enough to labor hard to protect and produce it. Otherwise, you will fail. Truly, the rose, as said by Sappho, is "the queen of flowers."

See Richardson (1936) and Merrill (1936)